Thursday, 14 August 2014

Super League Round 24 Preview

Round 24, even saying that sounds strange given that there is still a lot to sort out in the Super League namely that the the top eight and top four could be vastly re-arranged by this time on Sunday evening as the league resumes after breaking for the Challenge Cup.

The round begins tomorrow night with the televised tie of Hull KR hosting champions Wigan with the Robins looking to keep up their top eight hopes with Wigan looking to go to the league's summit.

Hull KR go into the game in mixed form after a loss to Widnes in the previous round means that they have won only twice in five games and will be looking utilise the advantage of  playing ahead of their play-off rivals to boost their top eight hopes.

Wigan make the trip up to Hull with three wins in their last four games after a comfortable win over Salford in the previous round but will be wary having lost all but one of their trips over the Pennines with the visit to Hull FC being the positive exception.

Last season the two sides met twice at Craven Park with Wigan victorious 46-14 in the Challenge Cup fifth round after a famous 84-6 win for the Warriors in the league meeting, something the Warriors faithful would be delighted to repeat. This season's reverse meeting saw a superb game at the DW end with Wigan securing a 34-20 win putting them on course for a double over the Robins.

The Robins make three changes from their loss at Widnes with Craig Hall, Rhys Lovegrove and Sonny Esslemont replacing Omari Caro, Connor Robinson and Kris Welham while Wigan are boosted by the long-awaited returns of former Robins half-back Blake Green and Eddy Pettybourne from injury.

Hull KR -Burns, Carlile, Chan, Cockayne, Costigan, Cox, Eden, Esslemont, Gardner, Green, Hall, J. Hodgson, Horne, Keating, Larroyer, Lovegrove, Netherton, Salter, A. Walker.
Wigan - Bateman, Bowen, Charnley, Crosby, Dudson, L. Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Green, Hughes, Manfredi, O'Loughlin, Pettybourne, S. Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Taylor, Tomkins, Williams.

Both sides will be fresh after the CC break and I see this being a real cracker but just Wigan so Hull KR 16 Wigan 28.

Friday night features three games with the televised tie being a meeting that could have been a dress rehearsal for the upcoming Challenge Cup final as finalists Castleford travel to losing semi-finalists Warrington.

Warrington go into the game on the back of a loss to Leeds in the Challenge Cup last four but with good league form with three wins from their last five games and with the knowledge that Castleford will follow the tradition of sides resting players ahead of the final allowing the Wolves to boost their push for top spot.

Castleford go into the game buoyant after reaching the Challenge Cup final for the first time in 22 years and are unbeaten in five league games with three wins and two draws but can be forgiven for naming a 'weakened' team for the trip to Warrington as a defeat would not hinder their fine charge towards the top four but could aid a first cup win since 1986.

Last season's meeting at the Halliwell Jones stadium saw Warrington win 40-24 as part of a league double over the Tigers but they were stunned in this season's reverse meeting as Castleford eased to a 40-6 victory on Easter Monday which puts the Tigers on for a double over the Wolves.

Warrington - Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, England, Evans, Grix, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J.Monaghan, M.Monaghan, Myler, O'Brien, Ratchford, Russell, Waterhouse, Westwood, Wood.
Castleford - Tansey, Lynch, Milner, Hauraki, Massey, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Gibson, Channing, Clare, Finn, Reynolds, Day, Jewitt, Carvell, Maher, Howden.

The fact that Castleford will be weakened ruins my hopes of a really close game so Warrington 32 Castleford 20. 

A few rounds ago, Salford and Catalan would have both had different views on where they would be in the table when this meeting came around but both now need a win to keep their hopes of a successful end to the season alive.

Salford go into the game on the back of a damaging defeat to Wigan and with only three wins from their last five games which has left their play-off hopes hanging by a thread with a six point deficit to eight placed Wolves so need to win all of their last four to even have a chance of extending their season.

Catalan go into the game with their place in the top eight still unconfirmed and knowing the top six is all but out of their reach after only two wins in their last five games allowed the chasing pack to close up on them but a win over the Red Devils would ease their worries.

Last season's meeting at the AJ Bell stadium saw Salford secure a 16-12 victory but this will be keen to avoid suffering a double to the Dragons after losing 37-24 in Perpignan in the reverse meeting but an interesting omen for the Red Devils could come from the fact that the home side have been the victors in the last five meetings between the sides.

Salford include Kevin Locke who missed out in the defeat to Wigan after being named in the original 19 while for Catalan,  Vincent Duport is back from suspension with Olivier Elima and Ben Garcia with the trio replacing Lopini Paea, Mickael Simon and Antoni Maria.

Salford - Ashurst, Caton-Brown, Chase, Dixon, Evalds, Fages, Griffin, Hansen, Johnson, Lee, Locke, Morley, Puletua, Rapira, Sa'u, Tasi, Tomkins, Walne, Walton.
Catalan - Escaré, Pryce, Oldfield, Pomeroy, Bosc, Elima, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Anderson, Mounis, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Bousquet, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Williams.

This could be a really good game with both sides with something to play for but I see Catalan ending the home win tradition so Salford 18 Catalan 26.

The final game of the evening sees table toppers St Helens host a Wakefield side who still have a hope of sneaking into the top eight.

St Helens go into the game atop the Super League table but in mixed form after a narrow loss away to Hull in the previous round saw a run of three wins come to an end meaning they have lost two of their last five and could be as low as fourth by the end of the round.

Wakefield go into the game on the back of a damaging defeat to Huddersfield which means their play-off hopes are hanging by a thread despite three wins in their last five games but they will know that a win could put them right in the mix.

Last season's meeting at Langtree Park saw Wakefield thrashed in a 52-18 win for the Saints but the reverse meeting earlier this season saw a much closer game with Wakefield unfortunate to lose in a narrow 24-16 defeat.

St Helens welcome back Adam Swift in place of Luke Thompson while Wakefield make four changes from the defeat to Huddersfield with Dean Collis, Daniel Smith, Scott Anderson and Jon Molloy replacing Nick Scruton, Jimmy Keinhorst, London bound Richard Mathers and the departing Richard Moore who left the club earlier in the week.

St Helens: Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Manu, Laffranchi, Flanagan, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Wheeler, Dawson, Richards, McDonnell
Wakefield Wildcats: D. Smith, Riley, Kirmond, Collis, Sykes, Lauitiiti, Raleigh, McShane, Gilmour, Sammut, Washbrook, Jowitt, Owen, Anderson, T. Smith, Tautai, Lyne, Molloy, Wildie

Recent form suggests this could go either way but I will edge towards a win for the hosts so St Helens 32 Wakefield 22.

Sunday features three ties with the standout game being the meeting between Huddersfield and Widnes with both still with a lot to play for this season.

Huddersfield go into the game on the back of a win over Wakefield and with three wins in their last five games and will be far fresher than their opponents who lost out in the Challenge Cup semi-final at the weekend but the Giants will be wary of a backlash and know a win is needed to keep up their slim hopes of retaining the League Leaders Shield.

Widnes go into the game on the back of a damaging loss in the Challenge Cup semi-final and with only two wins in their last five league games, their place in the top eight is under a serious threat but with the cup out of their minds they can focus on trying to secure eighth and extend their season.

Last season's meeting at the John Smith's Stadium saw Huddersfield thrash Widnes in a 62-6 win but the reverse meeting earlier this season saw Widnes edge a 22-20 win which puts them on course for a double over the Giants which would soften the blow from last weekend.

Huddersfield's extra break is hard not to use as a factor here so Huddersfield 36 Widnes 20. 

Bradford host Hull with the Airlie Birds still harbouring slim hopes of sneaking into the end of season play off's while the Bulls will look to win three in a row for the first time this season.

Bradford go into the game with only two wins from their last five games but with the wins coming against high-fliers Wigan and Leeds, the Bulls are in a confident mood despite their relegation to next season's Championship which since being confirmed seems to improved their performance.

Hull go into the game buoyant after a win over St Helens in the previous round which was their solitary win in their last five games which also included a draw and previous meetings suggest they will be confident with three successive wins over the Bulls.

Last season's meeting at the Provident Stadium saw Bradford secure a narrow 19-12 win but in the reverse meeting earlier this season, Hull put themselves on course for a double with a 44-16 win over the Bulls.

This is another game that could be a close one based on form but I see Hull just edging a win so Bradford 18 Hull 20. 

The final game of the year is on paper a complete mismatch as London host Leeds but London could get lucky if Leeds decide to follow Castleford in resting players ahead of the upcoming Challenge Cup final.

London go into the game still without a win in 2014 and with just four chances remaining, they face the real prospect of ending their stay in Super League with their last win coming in the previous season but may get lucky if Leeds field a weakened side which is surely London's only hope of winning.

Leeds go into the game on the back of a win over Warrington in the Challenge Cup but with just two wins and a draw from their last five league games though they are still in with a chance of ending the season with all three domestic trophies as they sit just two points off top spot.

Last season's meeting in London saw Leeds come away with a 30-18 win but London will hope not to suffer a repeat of the reverse meeting earlier this season as they fell to a 54-6 loss which put Leeds on course for a double over the Broncos.

London will be the fresher of the sides but I feel Leeds will have strength in depth so London 18 Leeds 30.